John Spence

1943, Abilene, Texas –

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Born in Abilene, Texas, John Spence has always known wide horizons and open skies. “Landscape photography for me is an ordering device,” he says. “The boundaries of the frame organize space and objects. Being at the right place at the right time with the right equipment in the right frame of mind is essential. The photographs which result are documents of the physical landscape, but while the palette is sky, earth, and trees, the reason for doing it is to create a visual image of an emotional response to the place where I am.”

As a child, Spence moved with his family to Beatrice, Nebraska. He received his B.F.A. and M.F.A. degrees in photography from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, then worked for Nebraska Public Television for five years in the film unit before starting his own business as an independent film and video producer. From 1972 to 1982, his photographic work focused on black and white portraiture using an 8 x 10 inch camera. Starting in 1982, he began photographing the Midwestern landscape, switching to digital photography in 2009.

His work has been published and exhibited nationally and internationally, including a show at the Nikon Salon in Tokyo, Japan. Spence has been a guest lecturer in photography at universities across the country.

One of his commissions is a set of large color photographs of the Nebraska landscape displayed in the state’s Capitol. He also earned recognition with a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Photography, an independent film production grant from the Southwest Alternate Media Project, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Award for Best Cultural Affairs documentary.

John Spence continues to live in Lincoln.

The Museum of Nebraska Art has four works by John Spence.


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John Spence, North of Davey Road, Lancaster County, Nebraska - April 19, 1988, color photograph, 1988